Please welcome our new blogger, Ashley, and her first post!
I feel so privileged to be sharing this blog with others through the International Bipolar Foundation, as well as being able to direct you to my personal blog.
Where to start? I thought writing a bio would be easier, but my manic mind right now is thinking…what do I share, what not, what relevant information do folks want to know and lastly, I don’t want to bore folks!
My name is Ashley, 39 years old, and I live right outside of Washington DC in Northern Virginia. I have never been one for change so I plan to be here the rest of my good ole life. I am married to a wonderful man, who also has Bipolar and ADD. No kids but 4 wonderful kitties.
Right from the start, the ADHD was apparent…my mom jokes I jumped out of her womb and took off running down the hall. From the start, I was not the “typical” girl. My hyperrness was out of control. This was during the 1970’s, so ADD/ADHD was just beginning to surface. In 1st grade, my parents took me to a psychologist, and the psychologist diagnosed me with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Which means, I’m purposely trying to ignore authority and I’m on the path to perhaps become an arsonist in the future? I have many childhood scars from this. I think I spent at least ½ my elementary school life with my desk in the hall.
Skip ahead 26 years until now. Unfortunately, 15 years ago I received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which happened to be the type of bipolar which is the most difficult to treat. In 1998, three years after initial symptoms developed, the complete diagnosis of bipolar I, mixed state, ultra rapid cycling, with psychotic features was made. Also at this time, I developed an eating disorder, anorexia, and bulimia. I also have OCD, thankfully it is not severe and just on the “it’s driving me crazy,” level!
My bipolar is not a euphoric mania but a dysphoric mania; I become highly paranoid, agitated, and aggressive. In the past, I have experienced psychotic episodes, and when my mania is severe I have a heightening of senses, I see colors brightly, almost in 3-D, noises are very loud, and there is increased creativity. I had 4 suicide attempts.
I have been hospitalized in psychiatric units at least 18 times, two of which were in eating disorder clinics. I once tried to estimate how much of my life was spent in hospitals, and it added up to approximately 3 years!
I’m currently on 9 psych meds. My new psychiatrist would like me to go to the John Hopkins’s Mood Disorder Ward and be “detoxed” from meds. Especially since, I’m on 2 anti-depressants which is a no-no for those with bipolar. I’m so scared, knowing that for the first 2 weeks he stated I would be in an extreme amount of discomfort. I’ll keep you posted as to my decisions.
Again, I look forward to bonding with individuals with mental illnesses, and exchanging information that will help me grow and understand that bipolar is not a life sentence just some speed bumps and potholes in the road!
Health and the New Year
A person may set goals and resolutions for the New Year. It may be regarding a habit that they are trying to break. Sometimes it may be to make an improvement in physical well-being, such as healthier eating, weight loss, or exercise. Additionally, it may include mental related goals, such as positive thinking, relaxing and enjoying life, or trying to decrease self-criticism.
Helping with mood swings, depression, decrease in OCD behaviors, etc. are great goals, and are achievable in different ways. Thinking positively will help achieve stability, as well as taking medication religiously and correctly. Severe symptoms of our mental illness are really out of our control. Nevertheless, here are some suggestions that can help achieve more stability, and aid with this. These suggestions are in our control and attainable.
Suggestion 1- Start by setting realistic and achievable goals. It is possible, other than medications, to aid in mood stability. In conjunction with taking your medication(s), psychotherapy, self-management techniques, and avoiding outside triggers, help with alleviating symptoms. Fortunately, coping in society is 100% possible.
Suggestions 2- Consistently monitor mood and physical changes. The quicker these issues are addressed, the quicker you can tackle the issue (s). For example, monitoring my sleep is important; I need to make sure every night I go to bed on time. When I notice that I am having difficulty sleeping, it could indicate I am becoming Hypomanic. This also includes sleeping to much; this could be a sign of depression. When these situations do occur, it is our control to call our psychiatrist as well as your therapist right away. Do not ever be scared of seeking any type of help, the quicker these “red” flags are identified that quicker your will alleviate symptoms.
Suggestion 3- Another factor for contributing to relapse is stress, which can be a huge trigger. Reducing stress as much as possible really helps. This could include exercising, relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, and eating healthy. There, are ups and there are downs in life, and the road has many potholes. However, I do not feel doomed and shackled for the rest of my life!
Suggestion 4- Check in daily with how you are feeling. Some questions I constantly ask to myself: Is my mood stable right now, have I noticed any hypomanic, manic or depression symptoms? Have there been triggers lately that may be destabilizing and need to stay away from? How can I make sure I can diminish my chances for destabilization? For me personally, I self manage by tracking my moods daily, by using a mood chart. My husband also does a mood chart with his observations; it is nice to get an outside perspective. This also proves beneficial when meeting with my psychiatrist so that he can see how stable or unstable I have been. Which in turn also helps with adjusts, if needed, with medication.
One point listed above I would like to stress as one of the most important aspects of being to obtain mood related resolutions. TRACK YOUR MOODS. For example, do you remember how you were feeling yesterday, last week? Personally, this is so important since I have mixed mania, rapid cycling bipolar assessing my behavior and moods has become second nature to me.
Suggestion 5- Developing a positive support network is so important in many different ways. It is great to get out and chat with friends, family, etc. It is a way to relax and escape in a positive way. On the other side of the support network, those diagnosed with a mental illness as well provides many beneficial aspects. Personally, the first couple of years after diagnosis were very difficult, feeling lost at sea, with no lifeboat. Folks were there but they did not “get it.” I too was just learning about bipolar.
Sometimes it is harder for me to observe my mood and my actions, thus, making it important for those close to you to monitor your mood and actions as well. Now I do not have to ask my friends about my behavior, they will tell me if I am acting manic, or seem depressed! I attend a weekly support group for those with Bipolar and Depression as well. This helps me vent and listen to suggestions from folks who understand fully what I am going through.
These are just a few suggestions for aiding with your mental health and the New Year. This list by no means is inclusive, but provides suggestions to assist you with obtaining and succeeding in resolutions you have already set in place. The ultimate goal for those with mental illnesses will always be the same, finding ways to cope, be stabile, and live our lives to the fullest!
Happy New Year,